All Of Our Favorite Bands, At One Point in Time
Up until the mid–2000s, I had a favorite band. It wasn’t always the same favorite band, but there was always one and one only. As if my current tastes were represented by some kind of internal, imaginary Billboard chart, with dozens of contenders vying for the top spot, looking to unseat whichever band had captured my imagination for long enough.
- “Sunspots” — Bob Mould
- “Contagious” — Ani DiFranco
- “I Should Watch TV” — David Byrne & St. Vincent
- “Shameika Said” — Shameika (w/ Fiona Apple)
- “Ping Island / Lightning Strike Rescue Op” — Mark Mothersbaugh
- “Double Dragon” — CZARFACE
- ”And Other Things” – Routine
- “When You’re In” — Pink Floyd
- “How Lucky” — Kurt Vile & John Prine
- “Sunflower Seeds” — The Orioles
- “Dukes Up” — Modest Mouse
- “Sunday Dreaming” — The Shirelles
- “Invaders” — Feio & Blueprint
- “Moving Men (Bob Sinclair Remix)” — Myd (w/ Mac DeMarco)
- “We the People…” — A Tribe Called Quest
- “No Escape” — Darren Korb
- “Pleasant Valley Sunday” — The Monkees
- “Guitar and Video Games” — Sunny Day Real Estate
- “Lonely Comin’ Down” — Dolly Parton
I didn’t think much of those bands at the time, but one by one they represented a specific point of my life — the person I was, for those few years, as represented by the music I loved. In grade school I went though a Monkees phase, which was followed by the obligatory “Weird” Al Yankovic phase. I remember each phase supplanting the next, each one a bit more sophisticated and complex than the last. I thought things got hardcore when I found Poison, but then I heard Metallica and then I graduated to Bad Religion. Hair metal to thrash metal to academic punk.
I latched onto Sunny Day Real Estate. I let them go for second-wave emo in The Get Up Kids. I found spacey indie rock in Modest Mouse.
And then I stopped having a favorite band. I just starting liking … whatever I liked. The question became harder to pin down — as my kids go through their own favorite bands (Gorillaz; Cavetown), they sometimes ask me about mine. I no longer have an answer. The point in which my life could be easily summed up in one band has long passed. If I was to be frozen in time, I would have no singular musical touchpoint.
Last week, a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a few years died of cancer. His name was Charles. He was kind. He was always ready to talk. He was so many things to so many people, but more than anything he was as good a friend as you can get. I literally can’t think of a single time when he wasn’t hospitable, friendly, and ready to be there for me or anyone else.
It’s time like this — when someone dies young — that you start going back and looking for those touchpoints. You read back through a person’s history and find that there are still pages left in the notebook. There was more life to fill in, and you’re left depending on things like favorite teams. Favorite characters or games. Favorite bands.
Charles’ favorite was Prof, a midwest rapper. I didn’t know this, because I didn’t know Charles as well as I used to. Prof probably wasn’t his favorite the last time we spent real time together. He changed a lot since I last saw him. We all did.
When people die — especially people we’ve lost track of, or don’t see as often as we used to — they tend to freeze in time. They are a series of moments — often, just that one moment you last saw them: they are a mid 00s New Year’s party, or a living room watching Halloween Havoc, or a chance encounter outside a house you’ve long since moved out of. They are a weird pizza order. They are a smile. They’re reminding you of the last time you hung out, reminding you you’ll hang out again, frozen in a promise that never comes.
Charles was a dad, and a husband. A close friend to many; an old friend to me. And each of us, regardless, have a different picture. We all knew him at different times — through different ages, loving different bands. The picture in the obit was not one I totally recognized, but it was those touchpoints that meant the most to his family.
It’s those pictures that make up the totality of a legacy. Every favorite memory. Every favorite band. Any of them might be the one you remember. Frozen for that moment. Frozen for that person.